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by Andy Thompson
The Virtual Stage
Roundhouse Community Centre
October 6-20

Spank! may be the show that converts gamers to the virtues of live theatre. On the other hand it may be the show that chases gamers away from theatre forever. A play about gaming and virtual reality that features some spectacular technical effects and one terrific performance, it sometimes feels like it’s going to go on forever.

The extraordinarily complicated plot takes place in a technically advanced society in which people like Doug (Peter Wilson), a techno-designer of some kind, have virtual servants like Rosemary (Natalie Kardum), who monitors his every action from a tele-screen. Rosemary even arranges a virtual date for the solitary Doug through “The Girlfriend Simulator,” which produces video girl Flower (Sasa Brown), a passive, pliable sexpot who invites Doug to spank her.

But Doug’s got more serious problems. Suffice it to say that he ends up falling through cyber-space into another dimension where he discovers that he and the rest of his world are merely part of a video game run by creatures (including Peter New and Raphael Kepinski) from this other dimension. He also learns of a plot by revolutionaries (Una Memisevic and Yurij Kis) in yet another dimension (I think) to overthrow those gamers, with consequences that might prove dire for some. At least that’s what I think is going on.

Some of the technical effects are dazzling. Characters cleverly interact with Jamie Nesbitt’s excellent video projections, and there’s a great sequence where Doug enters the other dimension via a video vortex. Patrick Pennefather’s sound design is as interesting and effective as the videography.

But the writing is mostly flat and sequences that are clever for two minutes tend to go on for ten. I don’t think Thompson does himself a favour by directing his own script. A director with some distance from the material might have convinced the playwright to cut great swatches of it.

The play only took off for me midway through the second act when Sasa Brown’s character somehow ends up channeling both the revolutionary girl and the evil controller guy at the same time. They fight it out vocally and physically inside her in a marvelous, hilarious, exhausting sequence. Would that the rest of the play had Brown’s energy and imagination, and this scene’s brevity and wit.

Jerry Wasserman

last updated: Saturday, October 14, 2006 4:19 PM
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